For me, history is the study of people, and I have “met” quite a few interesting folks while working on George Washington’s Barbados diary. Due to a lack of sources, most of these people will become vague acquaintances at best. However, one of those individuals has captured my imagination—Gedney Clarke.
My last blog post about slavery at Mount Vernon received a boost in readership when it came out around the same time a children’s book about slavery at Mount Vernon was pulled by its publisher. The book was about Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved chef.
With controversy surrounding the book, I thought it would be useful to provide some documentation from the papers of George Washington about Hercules, his life with Washington, and his escape.
The digital edition of The Papers of George Washington not only provides wider public access to our research, but also gives the editors the opportunity to revise and extend our work as more or better information becomes available. A smaller effort of that ability recently unveiled a human interest story that reminds us again that George Washington encountered many interesting characters besides the powerful and famous men celebrated as the founders of our country and that The Papers are a resource for cultural and social as well as political and military history.